Looking at Church’s Niagara Falls on the Web
by Lucie Chou

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Niagara is a revelation of the cosmos to each and every man.
 — David C. Huntington
Sure, I’ll breathe poetry there. My mind will be an embouchure
through which your powerful waters pour thunder. I will hear
nothing else, not the sharp sound waves spearing my bellows, 
nor honeymooners whose croons you swallow into white foam
and spew out as a shimmering arch of rainbow. You’ll teach me
about the cosmos by proving the paradox of water in motion:
that its motion is a stillness, that its stillness is ever in motion.
My body will be a speck of silence swallowed by your howling
emerald olivine chrysoberyl pale blue ice snowy pinnacles,
your ten-thousand-year-old ceaselessly cataracting avalanche,
your constant breath ever billowing through one diapason,
yet not one prism in your mist ever splits light the same way.
Like that bared jagged root snagged on your brink, I’d abide
inside your relentless remaking. Eyes on a digital or hands 
on a canvas covered with smooth strokes would never equal 
the whole of me, mind, body, heart and soul, all immersed 
in the whole of your eloquence greater even than my whole 
world, you patient shale-shaper, finale of the Niagara River, 
you Ice Age’s fossil water, you rhapsody of ancient glaciers
ever burgeoning into new birth, you under whose arcades
lovers sport crowned with bright sprays, you whose sheer
impetus splashes the sun’s and moon’s incandescent faces,
I keep calling you Whirlpool, Horseshoe, Luna Falls, Iris Falls
and you chant to purple clouds a booming Gravity is Grace.

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

Lucie Chou

Lucie Chou is an ecopoet working in mainland China. Currently an undergraduate majoring in English language and literature, she is also interested in the ecotone between ekphrasis and ecopoetics, and in exploring the magic presences of other-than-human living beings bleeding into the lonely arrogance of human experience. Her work has appeared in the Entropy magazine, the Black Earth Institute Blog, the Tiny Seed Journal website, The Ekphrastic ReviewTransom, and in the Plant Your Words Anthology published by Tiny Seed Press. A poem is forthcoming in from Tofu Ink Arts, both in print and online. She has published a debut collection of ecopoetry, Convivial Communiverse, with Atmosphere Press. She hikes, gardens, and studies works of natural history by Victorian writers with gusto. In August 2023, she participated in the Tupelo Press 30 / 30 project where she fundraised for the indie press by writing one poem each day for a month. She writes for a constellation of brilliant readers hopefully including street trees and feral animals she encounters in each city she travels to.